The Skin Doctor Who Makes People Smile – Dr Ridwan Mia
The first give away that this interview would be relaxed, and pleasant, was that Dr Mia met me at a place that would be easy for me to get to. For a life-saving doctor, to do this, let alone the actual interview, showed me that I was correct in my understanding, that this doctor is not only a miracle worker, but humble too. He truly is the skin doctor who makes people smile – Dr Ridwan Mia
We all know the story of little Pippie (Isabella) Kruger. At a family braai, a gel firelighter exploded in her father’s hands, and burnt 80% of the little girl’s body. Dr Mia was called in by a pediatrician at Netcare’s Garden City Hospital, and her chances of survival were minimal. But due to a strong fighting spirit, a warrior mom and Dad, a great Doctor and medical team, little Pippie is now back home, and has three sessions of rehabilitation a week, speech therapy, as well as two sessions of physiotherapy. Dr Mia was the doctor who performed groundbreaking surgery by layering sheets of cloned skin onto Pippie’s burnt skin. Pippie is now relearning how to walk, and is getting her personality back to how it was before and Dr Mia is keeping a close eye on her progress.
I wanted to know about the doctor behind this miracle work. I asked Dr Mia about plastic surgery in South Africa in general. I asked him how hard it is to become a plastic surgeon in South Africa. He replied, “It’s difficult. The whole process takes about fifteen years. You become a physician, then you become a specialist registrar. There are only about two hundred of us in this country, and it must be a calling. Your overall persona is looked at, not just your academic records, but it’s worth it in the end” Dr Mia was influenced by a family member who practiced medicine as a teenager. He would assist his uncle, Dr Anwar Mia, in small procedures. He works at Baragwanath, Charlotte Maxeke and Helen Joseph hospitals, doing reconstructive surgeries as well as cleft palate surgeries. The other half of his day involves putting bread on the table with consultations with other patients. After a brief trip to the UK, Dr Mia returned to South Africa and continued to carry on his good work. He teaches at WITS Medical School and works with NGO’s such as the Smile foundation. I asked him what is lacking in government hospitals, and he replied, “Equipment. At Helen Joseph for example, every doctor is dedicated, right up to the head of the hospital, but there is simply not enough funding to do the job properly.” I asked him if Pippie’s story is common. He replied, “Unfortunately it is. Pippie was fortunate to have parents who could drive her to a hospital. Poorer children do not have this option, let alone the funding for the treatment. Pippie’s mom was also fighting day and night to get her funding and making the surgery we did possible. Poorer communities simply cannot provide this kind of support”. To add to his amazing amount of work he does, Dr Mia is also a Trustee on the board of “Children of Fire” www.firechildren.org
I really started enjoying this vibrant doctor. He made the interview easy to do, and I found myself captivated by the work he does, and what he wants to do. I asked him about how all this fame has affected family lunches. He replied, “Nothing has changed, we’re the same. My family was very supportive and knew about Pippie’s situation before it got into the media. They were all even wearing “Support Pippie” badges. I then inquired about Dr Mia’s time away from the good work he does, what does he do for fun, and he told me, “I got to gym three to four times a week, usually early in the morning. I spend time with family, hang out with friends, and go horse-riding. I enjoy watching football and cricket too!” His favorite foods include, grills and pasta.
He is a South African we can truly be proud of!